I am motivated by the unlimited creativity within culinary arts – I am always thinking about food, its shapes, colors, flavors, scents, and aromas – I am constantly combining something. I am motivated by this limitless opportunity to create the possible from the impossible. Salaries are good, but they are not the main factor, creativity is the engine that drives everything in this business. Routine exists only if you create it yourself.
Gregor had always been a beekeeping and agriculture enthusiast, but his career has recently turned in a different, though not completely different, direction. He still appreciates organic ingredients and simple, authentic techniques, but he prefers to prepare these ingredients in a professional kitchen, rather than producing them on a farm. Read how he got a job as a sous chef at one of the most innovative restaurants in Zagreb so early in his career, and find out why education is important to him, and where he plans to take his career in the future.
Kul IN: Tell us more about yourself, when did you start cooking?
- My interests were all over the place. I started beekeeping my freshman year of high school. I came up with the idea and started tending the hives in my backyard, and with my grandmother I started poultry farming, I loved agriculture. I wanted to enroll in the police academy after my sophomore year of high school, but thank God, that didn't work out. After my high school graduation, I started university but did not stay long because the program was not what I had expected. I took a one-month break, and then got a job in bookkeeping and did that for about three years, until I came to Kul IN. I knew bookkeeping wasn't for me, but I didn't want to just sit at home. Cooking was my love, after high school I immediately wanted to enroll at Kul IN, but I decided to wait a little longer. I still have bees and chickens at my grandmother’s but I don't want to live in constant fear of that one hail that can ruin all the crops. I don't want that kind of stress, so I decided against doing agriculture full-time.
Kul IN: We have heard that you are particularly interested in Japanese cuisine?
- I love fish, seafood, and everything that comes out of the sea, and Japanese cuisine is based on seafood. Also, I like that Japanese cuisine uses fresh ingredients; there is no pre-cooking or over-cooking. I work at a vegan and sustainable restaurant Zrno, and they respect the lifecycle of ingredients - every morning we do everything from scratch, our in-house seitan, tempeh, etc. We do nothing in advance or in bulk. I like that approach, starting each day by preparing food from scratch. During the Culinary Arts program at Kul IN, we visited the Green Park Hotel and the chef said that he prepares risotto from scratch every time, he does not do pre-preparation. I appreciated seeing that approach and enjoyed the field trip.
Kul IN: How did you get your current job at the restaurant Zrno?
- I have been a "fan" of the restaurant for a very long time, even while Tvrtko Šakota worked there. I visited the restaurant and fell in love with their approach to gastronomy. It is a specialized cuisine, and they offer plenty of opportunities for continuous education. I am learning a lot about the food I love – top-quality vegetables, and healthy cuisine - all in all, it turned out great. Previously, I wanted to specialize in sushi, but I changed my mind because I don’t want to limit myself by specializing in just one dish, it's not practical to be an expert on sushi alone, but I would still like to go to Japan to further my education because that fusion of macrobiotics, sushi, and Japanese cuisine has always inspired me.
Kul IN: Did the program provide you with enough confidence to start working at Zrno?
- Definitely. Furthermore, Zrno has about thirty dishes and that seems like an ideal number for me, considering it is my first job in culinary arts. Everything is based on retaining the nutritional value of ingredients, blanching, and short preparation.
Kul IN: How will the program help you further your career?
- The program has given me a solid foundation and I just have to keep working now. We have mastered the basics and, now it is up to us to play around with what we have learned. Also, I gained confidence because I know how to use the proper culinary vocabulary, I have developed psychophysical strength in stressful situations. The most stressful situation on the program occurred during one of the masterclasses we had. I didn't understand the recipe that the guest chef wrote. Now I would know what to do in such a situation - I would try to figure it out on my own and eventually ask someone else to clarify. I realized the importance of writing detailed recipes during that masterclass (laughs).
Kul IN: Did you get a good idea of what working at a restaurant or hotel is like while you were here?
- Yeah, I don't mind the adrenalin, but it was definitely stressful. Certainly, a good experience that will help me one day when a similar situation happens in a restaurant - I will know how to remain cool.
Kul IN: What is your main source of motivation?
- I am motivated by the unlimited creativity within culinary arts – I am always thinking about food, its shapes, colors, flavors, scents, and aromas – I am constantly combining something. I am motivated by this limitless opportunity to create the possible from the impossible. Salaries are good, but they are not the main factor, creativity is the engine that drives everything in this business. Routine exists only if you create it yourself.
Kul IN: What qualities must every good chef have?
- Tolerance, calmness, ambition, creativity, authority, psychological strength.
Kul IN: Plans for your career?
- In five years I would like to become the executive chef at a smaller restaurant. I would like to travel around the world while working at a small restaurant, further my education, and later maybe open my own business.